Federal High Court declares NBC’s actions unconstitutional
Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court in Abuja has delivered a groundbreaking verdict, issuing a perpetual injunction that prohibits the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on broadcast stations throughout Nigeria.
The court ruling, which was delivered yesterday, also nullified the N500,000 fines that were levied on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.
Justice Omotosho firmly described the actions of the NBC as ultra vires, asserting that the commission, lacking the authority of a court of law, did not possess the power to impose sanctions on broadcast stations.
During the delivery of the judgment, Justice Omotosho passionately expressed his concern over an administrative body imposing fines arbitrarily, without adhering to the principles of the law.
He stated unequivocally that the court would not idly stand by while such violations of due process occurred.
The court further noted that the NBC failed to comply with the law as it served as both complainant and judge in its own matter.
Justice Omotosho agreed that while the Nigeria Broadcasting Code allowed the commission to enforce its provisions as a subsidiary legislation, it did not grant them judicial powers to impose criminal sanctions such as fines.
The ruling set a precedent that has far-reaching implications for the balance of power in Nigeria.
Justice Omotosho firmly declared that the NBC, not being akin to the Nigerian police, lacked the authority to conduct criminal investigations or initiate trials leading to the imposition of sanctions.
The case originated from an application filed by the Incorporated Broadcasters of Nigeria, with lawyer Noah Ajare representing the group.
The motion sought a declaration that the NBC’s sanctions procedure, involving the imposition of N500,000 fines on each of the 45 broadcast stations, violated the principles of natural justice.
The group argued that these fines infringed upon the stations’ right to a fair hearing as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The court, acknowledging the argument put forth by the group, concluded that the fines imposed by the NBC as punishment for alleged offenses under its code were unconstitutional, null, and void.